The Great White Toile

The Great White Toile

This project was such a whirlwind and so much fun.

On a Thursday William said that his company was having a Zoom murder mystery party the following Friday. He was super excited about this party, in an almost uncharacteristic way. It was an 80s theme and he’d picked out a Miami mafia character. He already had his eye on a mullet wig, reflective Aviator sunglasses and gold chains as part of the props for this costume. He also painted a toy Tommy gun we already had on hand from a white and orange to a believable black and wood-grain finish.

In his excitement he said it would be amazing to have a white leisure suit and red satin shirt, a la Scar face. I had no business volunteering to make him the suit, but I did anyway! So, with 8 days as my deadline, I set about fulfilling this gargantuan wish.

Previous to this my biggest projects had been a set of playsuits for our toddler. So, it was exhilarating and scary and exciting. The first thing I did was clip this image into my sewing notebook and begin to scribble notes and measures on the page with it. I also took Will’s measurements (twice).

This exact image is printed (in B&W) and taped into my sewing journal!
Source: BAMF Style

So, I pinned this picture in and went to the nearest craft store, Hobby Lobby. Using more sustainable purchasing options is normally my first choice but with a time crunch afoot I made due with what was closest.

Fast Stats
Pattern(s): McCall’s MNUMBER; McCall’s MNUMBER
Fabric(s): 3 yards white cotton twill; 2.5 yards red washed satin
Listened to: Stephen King’s “The Institute
Project Time: ~20 hours

The Suit Coat: McCall’s MNUMBER

It just so happened that McCall’s patterns were on sale for $2/pattern on the evening of my shopping trip so I picked up the MNUMBER pattern to use as a guide.

I’d also bought “Designing and Cutting Men’s Garments” from HowToBooks for $4 USD. If nothing else it’s a super interesting text to peruse through if you’re interested in drafting patterns.

Also, if you’re interested in making a suit coat but are nervous, Norris Danta Ford has an *awesome* full video sew-along of his men’s suit jacket pattern for Simplicity. I watched the entire thing twice and then had it playing in the background during some of this sewing.

I took an entire day to lay out, iron and cut white cotton twill fabric and the satin for the shirt. The project wouldn’t have taken quite as long if I’d cut a little quicker but I was really nervous to cut into the fabric so I checked everything multiple times before cutting.

Also, please note that I definitely used our formal dining room table as a cutting table for this project. No floor cutting here and the table I have in my studio wasn’t big enough to cut all the fabric in one go.

The cutting and construction was fairly straight forward for a straight size with no modifications, BUT I learned about half way through the finished product that Will would need modifications for a better fit.

The shoulders on the first fitting were roughly two sizes too big while the rest of the coat fit fairly well. I pulled the sleeves off and cut the front and back piece using quick measures (and prayers) and then sewed it all back together.

The first fitting, with half a coat, was pretty surreal. Will came in and just stared at the coat for a few minutes and then said “Wow, that was a pile of fabric yesterday. and you made an actual *sport coat*!” Needless to say he had a big grin on his face and I was very pleased. That’s a running theme in this story: I was realizing I’d bitten off more than I could finish on time and Will would come in amazed at the progress and that was enough to keep me going.

Will swears up and down that this is the best fitting suit coat he’s ever worn, just because of the changes to the shoulders.

I left this unlined. It’s a great disappointment to me that the lining didn’t work out. I’d found this slinky, gorgeous fabric in the off cuts bin at Walmart and was excited to have the shirt lined. It came down to a matter of time, though. I just didn’t have enough time to figure out the lining and get both the coat and the shirt done. I saved the pieces of this fabric, though, and it’ll be making appearances in other projects in the future.

The Shirt: McCall’s MNUMBER

This shirt, after the marathon that was the coat, was an easy sew up. I started this on the Thursday right before his party at about 11pm because I’d literally just finished the coat. I quickly sewed up the biggest bits, checked the fit on him and then honestly phoned in the rest of the shirt. I’m not proud of those efforts but they included rolling up the sleeve and doing a baby hem, no cuff, and sewing the shirt together up to (roughly) the navel and not bothering with button holes.

I did learn a ton about collars from the coat so the collar on the shirt was pretty much a breeze. Overall I think any version of this shirt would be a quick sew, especially a woven fabric like a cotton, linen or denim.

The Verdict

Don’t Be Intimidated By This Potential Tried-and-True

We went into this project knowing it was a ton of work and I was really nervous to underdeliver. While I felt like I did underdeliver in finished quality, Will still had a suit coat to wear that looked passable on camera so he’s thrilled.

This was WAY easier than I thought it would be, even though it was incredibly difficult in parts, fiddly in other parts and plain out frustrating in some places. I wouldn’t be too scared or nervous of a sport coat especially if you have the time to make a toile beforehand and use those measures to guide future sport coat makes.

I would recommend the twill as a great option for a toile! Where we live I was able to snag 3 yards for a little less than $30 (with a coupon!) and it sewed up like a regular cotton fabric. Two layers breezed through my 1970s Kenmore home sewing machine without a problem. I did it all on my Kenmore; I didn’t have a serger for this project, but it would have come in super handy for the shirt seams.

I think this is a pattern set we’ll definitely be using again! Especially now that we have Will’s measures set in a way that makes him feel great and beam that big ol’ smile at everyone. He’s ask for both more coats and shirts for a character he’s excited to introduce in his Twitch stream!

One thing that I’ve set as a hard and fast rule, though, is no sport coats in a week! Oi.

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